Friday, November 27, 2015

79th and Hillside

There was a long time of great turbulence and conflict for my family and me when we lived on 79th & Hillside in East Oakland. There seemed to be an air of hostility that saturated the environment. Even when we were not directly involved in the violence, someone we knew was, and if not them, then those who lived around us.

Constant fist fights, stabbings, and shootings felt so common place that as a child that is what constituted “normal” for me. People being hurt, and hurting others was a daily reality. Looking back I frequently feel bad for my older siblings because they had to constantly wade through turmoil on nearly a daily basis. However, I realize tears for the past are wasted.

My two brothers found themselves running afoul of one particular group of local troublemakers who were used to bullying the surrounding neighborhoods. So, when they attempted to do the same to my second-oldest brothers, the would-be aggressor found himself on the end of sweet chin music, promptly followed by a stomping-good sonata, that left him embarrassed and indignant.

Of course this led to him gathering his side. This resulted in my brothers having to do the same. A string of violent encounters eventually accumulated to the very brazen act of our home being on the receiving end of numerous gunshots one night. We were forced to dive to the floor as bullets tore through the plaster of our walls, and shattered more than one window. No one was hurt. But as if to truly bring home just how terrible the entire event was, we later found a bullet hole directly through my youngest sister’s crib.

A line had been crossed that night. Up until that point the incidents were numerous skirmishes fought with fists. Now, like almost every conflict ever fought by us hairless, psychotic primates on this planet, it was just going to escalate much further.

Perhaps they felt emboldened by the earlier strike. Three young men from the opposing side confronted my second-oldest brother one early evening as he stood on the corner outside our home. It was only him and I at the time. I recall it was the sort of overcast day that turns the sky into one big, dull gray sheet. As they argued and threatened one another, I remember being frightened the three would attack him at once.

I was 12 at most and I was no fighter. Not in the sense that I had not been taught how to take care of myself but in the sense that I just did not like fighting. But in my fear I grabbed a metal bat and watched from the front porch. I was uncertain to what I could do but despite the panic I felt, I knew I would have to try to do something if they started fighting.

The arguing only grew more volatile. An intense garble of sharp, loud words coming out as dares, threats and swears. Both young men inched closer as if they were waiting for some sign of fear or weakness but my brother stood his ground. I have no doubt if he backed down, if even a little, such would have emboldened them, and all three would have been on him before you could say “emergency room”.

Just when it was at its worst, just when I knew things were about to get extremely ugly, I heard the familiar sounds of a swiftly approaching engine. It was my older cousin’s Cutlass. It was a modified, sleek and aggressive vehicle that announced itself a block away with the constantly growling engine.

Apparently he was coming for a visit but caught sight of what was transpiring, causing him to floor-it from down the street. The sight of his car filled me with such a sense of relief. I knew without a doubt he would help. Close to the house my cousin recklessly drove up onto the sidewalk, slammed on his breaks, and jumped out of the car.

“What the fuck is this shit?” He demanded angrily as he walked from around the vehicle.

“Fuck you, nigga. Nobody is scared of you.” The lead instigator, a tall skinny kid, announced boldly as he stepped ahead of his two friends. “You can have some too if you want it.”

“Is that right?” My cousin suddenly produced a handgun. After so much shooting it would seem he was taking no chances. One of the young men instantly took his chances bolting, leaving his two friends to whatever fate was about to lay upon them.

“I don’t have anything! I don’t have anything!” The instigator yelled fearfully with his hands at his sides.

“That’s your stupid ass fault!” My cousin strode pass my brother as he switched his aim between both young men. “You thought you would come over here and just beat the shit out of my cousin with two of your boys?”

“No-- come on. I told you-- I told you I’m not carrying!” The instigator replied as he took a step back.

“Get the fuck out of here before I give you what he’s about to get!” My cousin smacked the second guy across the head with his weapon so hard he stumbled right holding his jaw with a cry of pain. He instantly followed orders and fled.

“Come on, man-- fuck. It doesn’t have to go down like this.” The instigator half pleaded and reasoned. “I will go--”

“Did I ask you a fucking question?” My cousin suddenly pressed the gun to the side of his head as he partially turned away.

It is one thing to understand the eventual inevitably that we will die someday. But it is a totally different thing to see death abruptly swooping in like a bird of prey with talons ready. I can still clearly recall the way the instigator lowered his head, and slouched his shoulders. The expression on his face was at once defeated, petrified and almost ill. This young man believed he was about to die quite violently.

In his growing desperation the instigator attempted to begin slowly slinking away. My cousin was having none of that. As if to firmly reiterate his point he pressed the gun more firmly against the young man’s skull, causing him to first flinch and then immediately freeze.

“Funny. Now you suddenly don’t have shit to say?” My cousin demanded.

“I’m sorry!” The instigator mumbled submissively with his eyes closed.

“Fuck your sorry.” My cousin replied coldly.

“It’s cool! I’m leaving!” The instigator pleaded.

“Why shouldn’t I just blast you right now?” My cousin swiftly inquired. “Why the fuck shouldn’t I just blow your head off right here?”

“Don’t.” The instigator whimpered and it appeared his legs would give out beneath him at any moment. “Don’t. I’ll go. I’ll leave. Just-- fuck-- don’t.”

“And let you come back later?” My cousin replied with what appeared to be some serious consideration. “No. You will just come back later with some of your people to hurt my family. It would be fucking stupid to let you leave. I’m getting rid of you right now.”

“I won’t! I won’t!” The instigator pleaded more desperately with a quivering voice. He attempted to take another step away. “I swear! Don’t. Don’t. I won’t ever come back!”

“Shut fuck up!” My cousin smacked him across the head with his gun causing the young man to slouch further with a groan of pain. “If ever see you again, anywhere, I don’t give shit where,” He angrily pushed the gun against the back of his skull once more. “I’ll blast you. Do you hear me? If I ever catch you again I won't hesitate to blow your head off!”

“I won’t! I won’t! Just-- just don’t. I’ll leave.” The instigator pleaded.

“Good. Now get the fuck out of here.” My cousin ordered before letting him take a couple more steps, then kicking him in the ass causing the young man to stumble forward. His first few steps away from the brink of death were hesitant as if he did not want to risk making a sudden move that would change his would-be executioner’s mind. Or maybe his tentative pace was weighed by the immense disbelief of what happened. When it became clear to the instigator that he was truly free only then did he run away. I wonder what was going through that young man's mind after coming so close to dying.

“I’m so sick of these muthafuckas.” My brother said angrily as he watched the instigator hurrying off.

“They’re just a bunch of goddamn cowards.” My cousin stated as he put his gun away. “Don’t start shit you can’t finish. If I was scandalous I could have killed him and his boys.”

“Yeah.” My brother admitted thoughtfully. “But it’s good you didn’t. Not because I give a damn about any of them, but because none of those assholes are worth that.”

“Yeah. I know.” My cousin laughed as he began calming down. “All this shit is so stupid.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Standing Indignity

It was the sort of day the summer sun is ornery towards everything below it. The sun's sour disposition was infectious, making the occasional winds harsh, hot, and arid. It was like having the calls for relief answered by a spiteful individual who's only solution was to sporadically shoot you in the face with a hair dryer at full blast. On this particular August afternoon in Union City, I was 15, and on my way to Bronco Billy's pizza parlor for both a peperoni slice, and to play the 'Marvel Super Heroes' arcade. With me was two of my best friends, Dolos, and Archon.

We were taking the same shortcut a majority of kids living in that area used; the railroad tracks. On hot days like this the rocks, metal rails, and brick walls visibly wafted with heat. This path shaved off a significant amount of time when going to the local park, school, or stores, but always in exchange for noticeably dusty shoes, making it a smart choice to keep an old rag, or cloth on your person to use at walk's end.

We exited the railroad tracks to the snarl of sluggish traffic that was common at that time of day. Dolos, and Archon were talking about a music album when I noticed a motorcycle cop. I would have mostly ignored him if he had not dramatically slowed his vehicle, and watched us far too closely while passing by. At that moment I instantly became host to a sinking feeling something unpleasant was about to go down.

Hey,” I called to both friends over my shoulder.

What's up?” Dolos asked while laughing about something.

I think we're about to have a problem.” I explained after coming to a stop.

What?” Archon asked as he began looking about. “What's wrong?”

The cop that just passed by is going to come back.” I informed them.

What?” Dolos asked skeptically. “What makes you say that?”

Just then the officer made an apparent U-turn from around the corner, and began driving directly for us. I frowned with bitter resignation. I doubted he was returning to introduce himself, or ask for directions.

Does that answer your question?” I replied to Dolos without taking my eyes off the motorcycle cop.

What the fuck did we do?” Archon asked tensely.

You mean besides for being Black? I honestly have no idea.” I answered truthfully.

Great. Because we need this.” Dolos laughed with vexed disbelief.

Pulling to a stop at the curb only several feet away from us, the cop immediately dismounted his motorcycle, drew his sidearm and took aim in our general direction. While it was scary to have a gun pointed at me this sort of aggression was not new, or even surprising. Maybe I was just very cynical at that age. Or maybe I had a firm understand how U.S society operated when you had a bit more pigment in your skin. Despite Oakland, and Union City being two wholly separate cities, the situation I was facing made aspects of them identical. Even when a play is constantly preformed on different stages, with a constantly changing cast, that does not make it a new story, as the characters, costumes, and script always remains.

Keep your hands where I can see them, and get down on the ground.” The cop quickly commanded.

Well, isn't this a sonofabitch.” I muttered to myself while beginning to begrudgingly follow the given command.

Wait! What did we do?” Dolos asked in utter surprise.

What's with the gun? We haven't done anything! And we don't have any weapons!” Archon angrily chimed in.

I said get on the FUCKING ground, NOW!” The cop demanded more aggressively.

Don't give him a reason.” I called to both friends on my knees.

Living in Oakland, I had witnessed enough overzealous, violent, and frequently racist cops to know how quickly the situation could escalate over even a perceived minor insult. The miserable irony is that this is exactly how the gang-bangers in my old neighborhood operated as well. “Disrespect them” and they will hurt, or even possibly kill you. The only difference is one side is punished for such a mentality, while the other is awarded, and praised for identical behavior.

I said face down!” The cop harshly added. It would seem even on our knees, with both hands behind our head, the deadly art of negro magic meant we were still somehow a viable threat to him. We of course complied.

So, there we were. Lying face down on a dusty, very hot sidewalk, in the middle of the late afternoon commute, as little more than a spectacle for every passing motorist. To this very day I can only imagine how many adults, saw three Black kids being held at gunpoint by an overzealous cop, and simply figured we were guilty of something that made it perfectly acceptable to point an instrument of death at us. Perhaps, the same way they automatically assumed my friends, and I, were guilty because the color of our skin, they also assumed the cop was justified by nothing more than the office he served.

While we're down here, is it too much to ask why this is happening?” I called over to the cop.

Quiet.” He replied harshly before pulling his radio free to begin speaking with someone.

Bullshit. Complete bullshit.” I heard Dolos mumble.

Good job, officer.” I heard a woman suddenly call out from the street. Looking over, I saw an older White woman waving at her new hero from the car she was driving, before rejoining the natural flow of traffic. I cannot begin to describe just how reassuring that was. To know there was an adult, happily congratulating another adult for forcibly detaining us kids for nothing, while pointing a deadly weapon at us, was indescribably uplifting.

Yo, this sidewalk is really hot.” Archon voiced unhappily.

Deal with it.” Was the cop's only reply before he returned to whatever it were he was doing.

This situation lasted for a long while. Us lying there while traffic slowly rolled by staring at us. Just as I was beginning to wonder if this was all a secret experiment to record what would give out first; our skin on the hot sidewalk, or our sense of dignity in the face of such humiliating treatment, the cop acknowledged an update over the radio then returned to us.

Alright. You are all free to go.” The cop said as breezily as one would say; 'Hey, thanks for stopping by. Catch you later.'

Now, can you please tell us what this was all about?” I asked after getting to my feet, and beginning to dust off my now very dirty clothing. My palms, and forearms were stinging from having been on that hot pavement for an extended amount of time.

Five suspects broke into a house. Reports said they were potentially Latino or Pakistani.” The officer explained with a straight face.

There was a palpable moment of utter disbelief that silently ignited between Dolos, Archon, and I, as we exchanged looks of bitter skepticism. It was Dolos who began laughing rather humorlessly as he turned and began walking back towards the tracks.

Right.” I said after looking between my friends and then back to the cop.

What?! There are only three of us, we're Black, and-- fuck it. Never mind. Not like you give a damn anyway.” Archon waved the explanation off and began following after Dolos.

I am only doing my job, kid.” The cop replied with an unapologetic tone while slipping on his mirror shades.

Whatever gets you through the night, officer.” I shook my head, then turned and followed after my friends. After all that, none of us were in the mood for pizza, or video games anymore.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Incomplete Soldier II

                       Basic Training was a carnival of cruelty, pain, and exhaustion. In all my life, perhaps excluding only funerals, I cannot recall another time I have witnessed so many adults openly weeping. Some terrible part of me truly enjoyed the chaos of it all. There was something extremely exhilarating about such physical training, be it the obstacle courses, working out, or training with the SAW. It would be a lie to say there were not times I found myself dusty, muddy, sweaty, and exhausted, while idly wondering to just how I could have gotten myself into such a stupid situation. Yet, those times were brief, because training was mostly filled with a lot of energy and excitement.

Just over a weeks into basic, I was unanimously selected to lead my company, which also meant I carried the training guidon during marches. While the position of “company lead” was less official than that of a department store greeter, I was still immensely honored and humbled to be selected for such. The feeling of having so many people believe in your abilities to lead, solve problems, and aid others, is such an indescribably amazing feeling. With this title came added responsibilities, and coordinating with five other Privates who were selected as platoon leads.

My new duties included keeping morale, resolving conflicts, pushing my fellow Privates to accomplish whatever goals were assigned to us, making sure everyone understood orders, and answering questions concerning said orders, instructions, or what was required. Basically, it was all chores the Drill Sergeants were probably more than pleased not to deal with on a less routine basis.

I managed to form a surprising connection with much of my company. Many of them came to realize they could always talk to me about a problem, or self doubts, when the time allowed it. I tried to constantly encourage everyone to stay the course. Many of them, even the few who were older than myself, began referring to me as “the Old Man”, because there was a commonly shared perspective that I spoke, and conducted myself as someone much older. It was flattering...at least, in a way.

Originally, after basic, and AIT, my duty station was to be somewhere in North Korea. Such initially sounded rather exciting, however after making so many friends, it felt increasingly crummy knowing a majority of them were going to Iraq without me. I found myself struggling with the idea of so many others going off to face danger, while I would go somewhere relatively safe.

When I first approached a couple of my Drill Sergeants about changing my duty station, in order to follow the rest of the platoon, such was dismissed. Yet, I persisted whenever the chance arose, and finally one of them, DS Andarata, explained I would need to speak with administration. She, and the 1st Sergeant, said they would help arrange an appointment for such.

On one particularly clear, but extremely cold, early morning, the entire company gathered outside before the barracks, preparing for a long march, as the sun was just starting to dilute the once dark sky. We had done such before, but what made this one different, was that we were going to preform such in full gear as to experience what it was like to be on the move while carrying so much weight.

After I was done preparing my on things, and DS Andrata inspected such to make sure it was aligned exactly with the standards of the diagram explaining what belonged where, she only nodded her approval, then instructed me to begin aiding others. Following orders, I began moving from group to group, offering aid where I could, and making sure their own gear prepared correctly. It was only a short time later that I found myself moving over to a group I was more personally familiar with.

There was Pvt. Neith, a slender, dark skinned, African-American girl, fresh out of high school, and a former varsity basketball player. With her bright smile, and almond-shaped, brown eyes, a lot of the guys use to comment on how pretty she was. Next to her was Pvt. Leliel, a blond, blue-eyed, Caucasian kid, from Alaska, who was hoping the Army would help him figure out his life. A lot of the women frequently said he was “striking”. Oddly enough, he and Neith were quite close. It was quietly rumored they were a bit more than squad mates. Of course that sort of thing was strictly forbidden during basic training, so it remained just that, an unsubstantiated rumor. Standing across from them was Specialist Pan, a tall, gangly, Caucasian guy a couple of years older than me, but extremely goofy, loud, and quick with jokes. Pvt. Gorgon, a short Latino kid from New Mexico, was knelled near them still gathering his gear.

“Andarata? Oh, man. She's fine as hell!” Pan was saying to Gorgon just as I arrived.

“And we're off.” Leliel shook his head.

“You might want to stop talking like that. I doubt the Drill Sergeant would appreciate that if he heard you.” Neith warned.

“Hey, its Williams!” Pan exclaimed before grinning as he motioned to where DS Andrata stood near another group. “I know 'the old man' will back me up on this! Isn't Andrata sexy as fuck?”

“I tend not to make it a habit of checking out any of the Drill Sergeants.” I replied while helping Gorgon get his rucksack in order.

“Oh, come on, Williams! You mean to tell me you never noticed?” Pan snorted in belief.

“I tend to try and keep busy, Pan. Much like you should be doing right now.” I advised.

“Well-- that is sort of true. Andrata is pretty hot.” Gorgon spoke up reluctantly.

“For fuck sake, don't encourage him.” Leliel openly groaned.

“Pan isn't completely full of crap this time. Andrata is hot.” Pvt. Taurus chimed in as he suddenly arrived. He was a tall, burly, Latino kid, also fresh out of high school, and a former varsity football player.

“See! See! No man can't not notice an ass like that!” Pan continued with a longing sigh.

“What if he's gay?” I partially joked as I moved to inspect Neith's rucksack. She watched Pan with an obvious look of disgust on her face but I doubt he stopped talking long enough to notice.

“Well, first I feel sorry for that fuckin fairy. And second, I'm not gay, so I get to notice what a fine ass she has.” Pan smirked.

“Wow. I wish she could just punch you right in the face.” Neith shook her head.

“Its cool! I like it rough!” Pan retorted with a grin.

“Come on, dude. Seriously, you need to chill on that.” Leliel explained more seriously.

“If she can make fatigues hot, you know she's got a body.” Taurus followed.

“Don't join in on his pervert party.” Neith frowned at Taurus before turning to me. “Williams, aren't you going to say something?”

“Ignore him, Private Neith. He's not worth the energy. To me, Pan's constant talking is a mild buzz somewhere in the background. We have to be absolutely ready before formation is called. I suggest you focus on that.” I explained to her while helping another Private who came over.

“Dude, come on. She's married, and even has a small kid.” Leliel explained with increased irritation. “And on top of all that, she's one of the Drill Sergeants. Respect her rank”

“Its not like he's raping her or some shit.” Taurus laughed in disbelief. “He's just saying she's fine.”

“What's wrong with me saying I would bang Andrata if I got the chance?” Pan asked with feigned indignation.

Just as I looked up to tell Pan to shut up, and return to preparing his gear, I caught sight of DS Woden approaching the group from behind. When I stood to call “At Ease”, he quickly caught my eyes and simply shook his head. I remained silent and returned to helping others. Drill Sergeants seemed to really enjoy sneaking up on Privates. DS Woden, a veteran of three different campaigns, was a tall, Caucasian man with dark eyes, and a shaved head. He was always extremely harsh but also one of the fairest Drill Sergeant's assigned to our company.

From the direction he was approaching, only I, and possibly Gorgon was able to see him. All the others had their backs to him. I suddenly felt nervous for Pan, while he could be an irritating loud mouth, I still feared what would happen if he was caught speaking such things.

“How is it my fault that I noticed a sexy woman? I'm a guy! We see shit like that!” Pan continued even as D.S Woden came to a stop a mere few feet behind him. “Who wouldn't want to fuck Andrata? Shit! I know I would if she gave me half the chance! I wouldn't give a shit if she was married!”

“So, you want to fuck, D.S Andrata?” D.S Woden finally made his presence known. Pan was a pale guy, but to this day, I can clearly recall the way he grew all the whiter as his eyes widen, and he turned to face one of the worse-case scenarios. The entire group fell silent under the epic weight of a collective, “Oh shit!” moment.

“Drill Sergeant-- no-- I was-- no not-- I wasn't.” Pan stammered fearfully as he took a tentative step backwards.

“No, no, Specialist Pan. There is no reason to be shy. She is a woman, and you are a man after all. How can you resist talking about wanting to fuck her.” Woden feigned understanding as his eyes raked over him.

“Drill Sergeant-- I, I was only--” Pan shook his head and moved another step back.

“At ease!” D.S Woden suddenly snapped at him causing Pan to instantly assume the ordered stance. “Now, what is it you were saying?”

“It was a joke! It was just a joke, Drill Sergeant! I swear to God.” Pan tried to explain.

“Oh. It was just a joke?” D.S Woden seemed to ponder such for a few seconds. “Oh. Now I get it. That is really funny, Specialist Pan. Hey, its so hilarious, that I just want to share it with my old friend, Andrata.” With that her partially turned towards where she was standing some distance away. “D.S Andrata, are you free?”

“Yes. What do you need, D.S Woden?” Andrata responded.

“I just need you to hear this really hilarious joke, by Specialist Pan.” Woden explained before turning back to Pan.

Our group watched tensely as she approached. I could not see Pan's face, but who needed to in order to know he was terrified. I think if any of us were dismissed, most would have hurriedly left the potential blast radius as quickly as possible. Yet, there was perhaps a morbid curiosity to what terrible results were about to occur. Like watching a car speeding towards a brick wall.

“So, what is this great joke?” D.S Andrata inquired upon arriving and folding her arms behind her back.

“Oh, I wouldn't do it justice if I were to try and tell it.” D.S Woden smiled in a rather humorless way at Pan. “Go on, Pan. Tell her.”

“Drill Sergeant-- I wasn't.” Pan's voice was low with fear.

“Tell her, now.” D.S Woden ordered more firmly.

“I-- I was just saying-- I was saying she was attractive.” Pan replied quietly.

“No, no. You are not telling it right, Specialist. Tell her what you were saying, Specialist Pan. If I have to repeat myself again, you are going to hate life for weeks.” D.S Woden's eyes narrowed.

“I--” Pan began again reluctantly. “I said Drill Sergeant Andrata was sexy-- and I wanted to fuck her.”

“I can barely hear this idiot.” D.S Andrata remained stone-face as her eyes searched him over like a pair of threatening daggers. It was more than clear she heard him.

“Speak up.” D.S Woden ordered sharply.

“I said,” Pan began again much louder, but also with a tremble in his voice. “I-- I said Drill Sergeant Andrata was sexy, and I wanted to fuck her-- but I swear-- I swear I was only joking.”

“That is hilarious.” D.S Andrata responded flatly as she continued starring into him.

“Told you it would be.” D.S Woden agreed with a similar humorless sort of tone.

“Why are we keeping this hilarious joke to ourselves? I would feel selfish if the other Drills Sergeants, and even the 1st Sergeant, didn't have a chance to laugh with us.” D.S Andrata explained before she began to look about, then calling the others.

During this entire exchange, I did nothing more than continue waiting for the enviable. It was absolutely no secret that even causing mild annoyance to the Drill Sergeants could result in the entire company getting 'smoked'. Now, seeing that both D.S Woden, and D.S Andrata were clearly, if even quietly pissed, I was truly dreading what sort of punitive consequences were in store for all of us. So, I silently, if even begrudgingly resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be a long, long, long day.

Then a miracle happened. Something that felt so magical, that even if I had learned, at that very moment, it was just discovered Christmas and Halloween somehow got together, then had a baby, that resulted in a new holiday filled with masks, lights, treats and presents; it would have still been only the second most magical thing to occur that day.

“I suggest you all move along, Williams. I want everyone ready in exactly 10 minutes. Absolutely no excuses.” D.S Woden finally acknowledge me once more without looking away from Pan.

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.” I nodded, and despite being stunned, I gathered up all the other Privates, who seemed more than happy to escape what was happening.

Somehow, against the odds, the company was not going to suffer with Pan. Why? Maybe their coming anger was so intense that it needed a single focal point to be released on? Maybe they realized it was only Pan who screwed-up? Or maybe they were just so pissed that they decided to forgo protocol and pour all their wrath on that one guy? Honestly, who gives a hell? There was no way I was going to stick around and question good fortunes.

As we hurried off, all the other Drill Sergeants, and the 1st, were beginning to arrive to hear this new 'hilarious joke' that was suddenly all the rave. I was more than certain not a single one among them was going to laugh at the punchline, regardless of how it was delivered. Specialist Pan was made to regret everyday for over a week.

I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Friend the Monster

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Violence, Rape

I was 16 when I woke upT on that particular evening. Faint rays of light from the setting sun managed to partially seep in through the black curtains and heavy pale blinds to ease the normally dark shadow of my room. I did not immediately get up from the bed. Instead I remained lying on my back staring at a ceiling. I was still annoyed and disappointed by a sudden turn of events that had been transpiring.

A close friend, a girl named Eurydice, started dating another very close friend, Argus a few months earlier. Despite my outward smiles and support I felt little happiness about any of it. Secretly, every night when I was alone, I was having fist fights with a green-eyed monster. My true feelings about the situation invited this new and terribly alien opponent to a rematch again and again no matter how hard I tried to feel differently.

The first time I saw Eurydice I immediately caught feelings for her. She was a pretty, olive skinned girl with curly, raven hair. When looking into her large brown eyes it was easy to see mysteries and dreams that made every smile seem secretive. She was a witty type of spirit that loved to create, laugh and question. Unfortunately Argus saw her through the same lenses at the same time. He was also much quicker and braver about approaching her.

Worse, Eurydice was completely smitten by his arrogance, dim-wits, and good looks. Yet, to be honest it was those same dim-wits, plus his ability not to take most things serious, that made him one of my best friends at the time. He was fair-skinned with a mop of curly brown hair, and defiant gray eyes that accompanied his constant smirk. Though I was taller than Argus, he was more muscular due to his constant years of football. Despite the jealousy I felt over Eurydice, part of me looked up to him because Argus was the type of person that was completely comfortable in his skin.

No matter. I was his friend and he was mine. So, even though I did not want to hang out that particular evening, I promised earlier that day I would show up to meet him. No one was home when I left my room, went down stairs, and exited through the front door. The sun was all but gone as I walked down the street towards the agreed upon place. The railroad tracks were a shortcut to the bridge. On hot summer days those dusty, rocky passages would bake beneath the sun and then regurgitate that heat back into the evening air.
 
Argus was nowhere to be found when I reached the bridge so I learned over the railing and stared down into the waters of the creek. I noticed my boots were slightly dusty and scuffed from the walk, so I made a mental note to wipe them off later. While waiting I listened to the impromptu choir of crickets and frogs against the distant sounds of children playing somewhere amongst the quiet suburb.

My boy, Walt.” Argus called out as he reached the start of the bridge. He seemed genuinely happy we were hanging out. Such made me smile a little despite my earlier feelings.

What’s up?” I looked up from the water towards him.

Nothing much.” Argus replied. He seemed almost sad and that confused me. “What’s been up with you today?”

Nothing really. I have been asleep most of the day because I had a really bad headache.” I stood up straight from the railing and slipped my hands into my pockets. “Did you stay home all day too?”

No. I went and hung out with Eurydice for a little while.” He shrugged.

Is everything alright?” I asked with some internal hesitation. I really did not want to get on the subject but I did not want to leave him hanging if something was wrong.

Yeah, I guess. Just-” Argus shook his head and that time I definitely could tell something was bothering him. “But fuck it, you know?”

Fighting again?” I asked curiously.

Yeah, something like that.” Argus looked around once before sliding his hands into the pockets of his oversized, gray jeans. “She was being a stupid so things happened, but fuck her, I don’t feel like talking about it right now.”

Cool.” I shrugged not wanting to force the issues. “Want to walk or something? You look pretty bummed about it.”

Yeah,” Argus nodded then motioned for me to follow him down the tracks. “I was thinking about going to the store to grab a soda or something. You up for it?”

Sounds like a plan to me.” I turned in the direction that would lead towards the liquor store.

I didn’t mean that store, Walt. Besides, they charge way too much for, like, everything. Trying to buy a pack of gum from them would probably cost $2.” Argus shook his head.

Then where?” I asked with some confusion.

Let’s walk to that supermarket over near the Drive-In. They have all sorts of cheap shit.” Argus said before taking a step back.

Sure, if you want to.” I said as I began following him. “Not like there is much else to do. It might be kind of nice to walk a little further anyway.”

Oh yeah?” Argus asked curiously while we walked down the tracks.

Yeah, haven’t been out and about in about two days. To be honest it feels good to be out right now.” I explained.

Dude, you should get out more.” He replied simply.

Says you.” I quipped.

Pft, that is good enough. I’m like some sort of expert on this sort of stuff.” Argus said with a brief laugh.

Our conversation jumped several topics as we made our way towards our destination. We talked about college, the future, movies, video games, music, clothes, etc. Finally leaving the hot, dusty trail of the railroad tracks, we crossed a lush green landscape newly created by the city for a beautifying effort. Admittedly, all the flowers and trees were really working. After jay-walking the rather busy street, Argus and I crossed the big asphalt parking lot and walked through the doors of the supermarket.

The pale lights of the store were an artificial afternoon stuffed inside of a building. To say I found it uncomfortable would be an understatement. We did not immediately go for the goal that brought us to the store. We wandered about looking at whatever caught our attention for a brief moment. At some point we arrived at the magazine aisle where we killed time by flipping through the pages concerning video games or music.

Goddamn Mace and Puffy.” Argus fumed about an article featuring both artists with a shake of his head. “Why do people listen to this fake shit?”

Not a clue.” A shrugged while flipping through a copy of the same magazine to find what article he was annoyed with. “Can’t say I’m a fan.”

Isn’t it enough they keep playing his crap on the radio and TV?” Argus glanced up from the magazine. “And what’s up with dudes dressing like him and those other ass clowns on his label? They look stupid as hell wearing all that shiny, bright, foil looking shit.”

They can’t help themselves. Their idiots.” I replied causing Argus to laugh.

Don’t lie, Walt. You know you hide a couple of his CD’s in your room.” Argus joked while sitting the magazine down.

You are only saying that to see how I feel about your dreams of becoming one of his back up dancers.” I did the same with my magazine as we laughed and began moving towards what we had walked all that way for. Eventually we found our way out and wandered back towards are neighborhood. Despite his occasionally laughter Argus still seemed morose during the walk back. We eventually arrived at the bridge. He finished most of his soda before tossing the bottle into the waters below.

Hey, don’t litter, asshole.” I joked from where I stood on the opposite side. “Hasn’t the wisdom of Captain Planet taught you anything?”

Dude, there are three shopping carts down there already.” Argus replied with a smirk.

Don’t mean you have to add to it.” I countered. “Thanks to you an entire family dolphins are going to die in about 10 minutes from now.”

You’re right, Walt.” Argus added with mock sincerity and lowered his head in shame. “I don’t think I can live with myself.”

Right.” I laughed causing him to do the same.

And yeah, I went to Eurydice’s house today.” Argus suddenly said as he glanced over at me then turned back to the water.

Oh.” I was not really sure how to respond because I had forgotten about the earlier topic and it seemed odd he would bring it up again so suddenly. “Is everything alright? Did something happen?”

We were fuckin around, you know? Just kissing, touching, and that sort of stuff.” Argus explained while still staring down into the water.

And that bothered you?” There was a small pang of jealousy but such did not out weight my concern to why he seemed so sad and distant.

No. No.” Argus hesitated for a moment and glanced over at me.

Dude, seriously, what’s wrong?” I asked with building concern.

Nothing.” Argus turned his eyes back to the water appearing more distressed. “Just, well, I got her shirt and bra off, you know? So we kept kissing. Then she started acting all funny and shit. I had unzipped her jeans and slid my hand down into her pants-

Whoa,” I stopped Argus with a nervous laugh. “I’m not sure she would want me hearing the details to all this, besides-

Walt, just—just listen.” Argus tone suddenly became irritated as he looked over at me.

Yeah, ok. Sorry…” I rubbed the back of my neck becoming concerned again.

No, it’s cool. Just,” Argus shook his head and concentrated on the water again. “, she kept grabbing all over my dick, and stuff. You know? But when I got her pants off she started acting all funny, Walt, like she suddenly didn’t want to anymore.” He shook his head. “She was just playing goddamn games like always.”

Ah, so that is what the argument was about I take it?” I asked curiously. “Look, maybe you should call her and-

We didn’t have a fight, Walt. She just kept fucking with me.” Argus said angrily as he turned his eyes to me again and stood up straight from the railing. “I got tired of that shit finally. Know what I mean?”

Don’t tell me the two of you broke up?” I asked in disbelief. I was not totally innocent in that situation. Yes, I sincerely wanted Argus and Eurydice to be happy, but that jealousy poisoned some of my intentions. The moment I felt that small spark of hope I instantly regretted it. I desperately wanted to be a better person than that.

Yeah, we kind of broke up I guess or something.” Argus glanced down and found a rock on the bridge. Picking it up, he easily chucked it to the water below.

Do you want me to talk to her for you?” I asked surprising even myself. “Maybe there was some sort of misunderstanding, you know?”

Like I said, I got tired of her fucking with me, man. She thinks just because she looks good, I have to take her shit all the time.” Argus chucked another rock into the water below. “So, I was like fuck it.”

Wait, I don’t understand. What happened?” I asked in confusion.

I pulled her fucking panties off anyway.” Argus began again with noticeable agitation. “So she started whining and telling me to stop. I told her she shouldn’t been grabbing all over my dick all afternoon like a cock tease.”

Argus?” I asked with a voice quieted by a sudden dread that slithered from the back of my skull, down my neck, and over my spine, thick and icy. The end of the story already seemed apparent but I was in denial.

She was a cock tease, right?” Argus continued on angrily but still was not looking at me. “Eurydice, that bitch, just kept playing with me every day. Acting like she wanted to go all the way, I show up and she changes her mind. What kind of shit is that? How is that right?” He finally looked over at me seeming to search my face. What was he searching for? To this day I am not really sure. “So, I took off those panties and got what I wanted.”

Argus?” I asked once more without being sure exactly what it was I was questioning.

Things went quiet between us for a while. That tense silence was filled by the flowing water and a train passing in the distance. Argus kept staring down at the creek, concentrating, and focusing on it far too hard. I was surprised by a sudden and bitter laugh of seeming contempt that that rose from him.

Eurydice screamed but I didn’t give a shit. I just kept fucking her even when she told me it hurt without lubrication.” Argus was still laughing but it was a sound without any humor. “I was fucking pissed by then so I told her ‘oh, here comes your lube.’ And I busted a nut in her and just kept going. Fucking cock tease started crying, dude. Started to say some shit about how she loved me and wouldn’t tell if I stopped. I told her stupid ass I would stop when I wanted to.”

Wait.” I laughed as I suddenly caught on and some small relief washed over me. “You’re just fuckin with me, right?”

Nope.” Argus said flatly as he looked me in the face once more. “I fucked her right there in her living room, on the floor, by the couch. She got what was coming to her. After we finished she started blubbering about how she felt like she couldn’t walk or some bullshit like that. Whatever, she enjoyed that shit and just didn’t want to say it.”

Dude, seriously, enough now. Stop playing.” I wanted to hear him suddenly burst out in laughter at me for having believed him. Deep down I was praying he would. I needed him to laugh. I knew it was coming at any moment and I was waiting for it with all my heart. I stared at him waiting for it. “Argus-

I’m not fucking playing!” Argus nearly yelled at me in sudden anger that caught me by surprise. “I told you I fucked her and that is what happened. It’s not my fault. She wanted it anyway.” He stood up from the railing again and turned to face me as he grew more irate. “What the fuck you trippin so hard for? I don’t give a shit so why do you?”

What did you do?” I asked a question that had already been answered. I stared at him in continued disbelief. The full understanding of what he had said was slowly dawning on me, and I just could not believe Argus, careless, funny Argus, who I looked up to, would do something to Eurydice. That he would do anything so horrible to anyone. I saw this kid return a wallet full of money. I heard the ugly words clearly but they just made absolutely no sense coming from him. “You raped, Eurydice…” I trailed off as the words touched the air between us for the first time.

What are you talking about? I didn’t rape anyone!” Argus snapped angrily. “Eurydice wanted it. Why the fuck else would she let me take all her clothes off? Huh?” The question seemed to be aimed at both of us as there was a look of confusion added with his anger.

Dude, she was crying. You even fuckin said she told you to stop. You raped her!” The words were an incantation that razed and salted our friendship with a curse that could never be broken. “What the hell is wrong with you? You raped, Eurydice!”

Shut up!” Argus ordered furiously as he took a step towards me. “I didn’t rape goddamn, Eurydice. Why are you going ballistic over this? I’m supposed to be your boy, remember?”

You don’t get it. You raped Eurydice. What the fuck is wrong with you?” I looked him over trying to understand what the hell had just happened to my friend. “What are you going to do? How could you do that to Eurydice? She’s our friend. She trusted you.” I wanted an answer and at the same time I felt selfish for some reason. Argus stared at me for a while as if he did not quite get what I was saying. It was the look of a deer trapped by the oncoming glare of headlights. For the briefest moment of time I felt sorry for him.

Fuck you, Walt.” Argus suddenly said viciously with a mixture of anger and hurt. “You can go and kiss her ass if you want then. Maybe you just have a hard on hearing about Eurydice getting fucked? Is that it? You liked hearing about that cock tease getting what she wanted!” He laughed bitterly and the sound was hideous to my ears. It managed to both hurt and repulse me at the same time. I did like Eurydice. I had feelings for her that tittered between that uncomfortable place of friendship and romance.

I am not completely sure what happened during those few seconds. The sudden explosion of hatred and anger took me across the short distance between us with an uncontrolled scream, before I snatched him by the throat and threw Argus with as much strength as I could gather. He tumbled hard when he hit the ground several feet away.

Scooting backwards when I took a few steps towards him, he watched me with disbelieving, wide eyes. I caught myself somehow. For a moment, for a split second in time I truly understood the urge to kill. I thought about wrapping my hands around Argus throat, and just squeezing until the life was milked from his lungs.

Fuck you!” I yelled furiously at Argus while trying hard to restrain all the dark, ugly things suddenly poisoning my every thought. “I should kill you!” I took a step towards him as my fist tightened, begging relentlessly to be introduced into the equation. “I should kill you where you are sitting you worthless, fuckin bastard! Eurydice was our fuckin friend! She trusted you!”

I felt enraged and saddened at the same time. I was not sure what else to do. Part of me wanted to continue the fight but another part of me was yelling not to. I looked between Argus and the way home. I hated him for hurting Eurydice and for ruining our friendship. Those were the last words I ever spoke to Argus. I turned walking away as quickly as I could.

I was some distance away from the track when I suddenly felt nauseated. Maybe it was all the strong emotions exploding inside of me or maybe it was the thought of Eurydice being violated. Whatever it was it caused me to stop and become sick near the track wall when my stomach lurched forward. It might have lasted less than a minute but I felt as if I was throwing up for an hour. By the time it was done I needed to lean on the wall to remain standing.

Raising my face to the sky, I closed my eyes and began trying to control my breathing. I still felt so much hatred and anger. Reason ignited and burned under the mixture, and suddenly I was angry at both Eurydice and Argus. There was a vicious stab of jealousy lodged in my heart, green and fiery, spurting and churning like an insane lime fissure.

Eurydice should have choose me!” I suddenly reasoned inside of my head. If she had been with me none of this would have happened. I respected her. I supported her. I looked out for her and that clearly made me the better choice. Eurydice went with someone more popular and such was her undoing. It was a poor goddamn decision and she was paying dearly for it.

Then as suddenly as it had begun the pure hatred that corrupted my thoughts were gone, and the green-eyed monster won a definitive victory. Though no one was there to judge me for those private thoughts, I felt terribly guilty and partially sickened with myself. Who was I to be hurt in all this? How could I think that way about someone I loved?

It was dark on the tracks and nothing but a few distant, orange-yellow lights stood as sentinels against the night. Some belonged to the isolated factory across the field and others surrounded an expensive, gated community across the creek. I decided to walk to the corner store Argus did not want to go to earlier. There is no poetic way to describe how I felt while walking to my new destination. I felt like a monster.

It seemed like I was floating as I left the railway and began down the silent street. My thoughts kept drifting back to Eurydice. I wanted to go see her. To tell her I was sorry for everything that happened. The thoughts constantly repeated themselves over, and over even as I arrived at the liquor store. I stepped through the entrance and out of the night.

I found a lime soda.

I paid the man.

Then walked back out into darkness.

I washed my mouth out with the drink, spitting into the grass beside the store before beginning the walk home. I thought about going down the street to visit my cousins or back across the creek to see my friend Brandon. Then I decided I wanted to be alone so I walked back down the tracks and hopped the fence leading to my backyard.
 
For the first time ever that brick wall felt like a challenge but I still managed. I stepped onto the cement of the basketball court and stared ahead at my own home. Most of the lights were out except for the upstairs light in my mother’s room. It pitched a faint, pale glow into the backyard like a weak spotlight to an opening play. Instead I went over to the Gazebo and walked inside before sitting on one of the large white wood chairs.

Leaning my head on the back, I closed my eyes, feeling guilty, bitter and lonely. I seriously contemplated calling the cops to report what happened but I wondered if that would have been what Eurydice wanted. What if she denied the whole thing? What if it made the situation worse somehow? I did not want to try and carry the weight of that decision. So out of fear and uncertainty I remained inactive. It stayed that way until the dawn began chasing away the darkness of the night.

I ended my staring into nothing and silently slipped into the house through the side entrance. It was early but I already knew I was going to spend the day alone. After entering my room, closing and locking the door, I fell onto the bed. While lying there my thoughts eventually drifted to Eurydice again. I still wished I could tell her I was sorry. I wanted to hug her and let her cry into my shoulder if it helped any. I wanted to make everything better. I wanted nothing more than to make everything right.

However this was not a situation from a story book or sitcom. There would be no final dramatic moment. No quick resolve to clear up the entire problem before the next adventure. There was nothing but pain and suffering with no real resolution.

My room always felt like a haven from the world but it was no sanctuary from my thoughts and conscience. I lie there until the thin black veil of sleep fell over my face and a monster far worse than the green beast arrived to make sleep a nightmare.